Proof of Concept for Sustainable Investing: The Influential Barron’s Names the Inaugural “The Top 100 Sustainable Companies — Big Corporations With The Best ESG Policies Have Been Beating the Stock Market.”

By Hank Boerner – Chairman and Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

Barron’s 100 Most Sustainable Companies

Barron’s is one of the most influential of investor-focused publications (in print and digital format) and a few months ago (in October), the editors published the first of an ongoing series of articles that will focus on ESG performance and sustainable investing, initially making these points:

  • Barron’s plans to cover this burgeoning style of investing on a more regular basis. A lot of possible content that was developed was left on the cutting room floor, the editors note.
  • Says Barron’s: “We are only in Version 1.0 of sustainable investing. 2.0 is where ESG is not a separate category but a natural part of active management.”
  • And:  “Given the corporate scandals of recent days (Wells Fargo, Equifax, Chipotle, Volkswagen, Valeant Pharmaceuticals), it is clear that focus on companies with good ESG policies is the pathway to greater returns for investors!”

The current issue of Barron’s (Feb 5, 2018) has a feature article and comprehensive charting with this cover description:

The Top 100 Sustainable Companies – Big Corporations With the Best ESG Policies Have Been Beating the Market.”

Think of this as proof of concept: The S&P 500® Index Companies returned 22% for the year 2017 and the Barron’s Top 100 Sustainable Companies average return was 29%.

The 100 U.S. companies were ranked in five categories considering 300 performance indicators.  Barron’s asked Calvert Research and Management, a unit of Eaton Vance, to develop the list of the Top 100 from the universe of 1,000 largest publicly-held companies by market value, all headquartered in the United States.

Calvert looked at the 300 performance indicators that were provided by three key data and analytic providers that serve a broad base of institutional investors:

  • Sustainalytics,
  • Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS)
  • and Thomson Reuters ASSET4 unit.

Five umbrella categories were considered:

  • Shareholders
  • Employees
  • Customers
  • Planet
  • Community

There were items considered in the “shareholders” category, like accounting policies and board structure; employee workplace diversity and labor relations; customer, business ethics and product safety; planet; community; GHG emissions; human rights and supply chain.

We can say here that “good governance” (the “G” in ESG) is now much more broadly defined by shareholders and includes the “S” and “E” performance indicators (and management thereof), not the formerly-narrow definitions of governance. Senior managers and board, take notice.

Every company was ranked from 1-to-100, including even those firms manufacturing weapons (these firms are usually excluded from other indexes and best-of lists, and a number of third party recognitions).

Materiality is key: the analysts adjusted the weighting of each category for how material it was for each industry. (Example: “planet” is more material for chip makers using water in manufacturing, vs. water for banking institutions – each company is weighted this way.)

The Top 100 list has each company’s weighted score and other information and is organized by sector and categories; the complete list and information about the methodology is found at Barron’s.com.

The Top 5 Companies overall were:

  • Cisco Systems (CSCO)
  • salesforce.com (CRM)
  • Best Buy (BBY)
  • Intuit (INTU)
  • HP (HPQ)

The 100 roster is organized in categories:

  • The Most Sustainable Consumer Discretionary Companies (Best Buy is at #1)
  • The Most Sustainable Financials (Northern Trust is #1) – Barron’s notes that there are few banks in the Top 100. Exceptions: PNC Financial Services Group and State Street.
  • The Most Sustainable Industrials (Oshkosh is ranked #1)
  • The Most Sustainable Tech Outfits (Cisco is at the top)

Familiar companies names in the roster include Adobe Systems, Colgate-Palmolive, PepsiCo, Deer, UPS, Target, Kellogg, Apple, and Henry Schein.

Singled out for their perspectives to be shared in the Barron’s feature commenting on the ESG trends: John Wilson, Cornerstone Capital; John Streur, Calvert; Calvet Analyst Chris Madden; Paul Smith, CEO of CFA Institute; Jon Hale, Head of Sustainability Research at Morningstar.

Calvert CEO John Streur noted: “This list gives people insight into companies addressing future risks and into the quality of management.”

Top-ranked Cisco is an example of quality of management and management of risk: The company reduced Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 41% since 2007 and gets 80% of its electricity from renewable sources.

This is a feature article by Leslie P. Norton, along with a chart of the Top 100 Companies.

She writes: “…Barron’s offers our first ranking of the most sustainable companies in the U.S. We have always aimed to provide information about what keenly interests investors – and what affects investment risk and performance…” And…”what began as an expression of values (“SRI”) is finding wider currency as good corporate practices…”

The complete list of the top companies is at Barron’s com. (The issue is dated February 5th, 2018)  You will need a password (for subscribers) to access the text and accompanying chart.

For in-depth information: We prepared a comprehensive management brief in October 2017 on Barron’s sustainable coverage for our “G&A Institute’s To the Point!” web platform: https://ga-institute.com/to-the-point/proof-of-concept-for-sustainable-investing-barrons-weighs-in-with-inaugural-list-of-top-100-sustainable-companies/

The Most Trustworthy Business and Professional Leaders – the Rosters Are Out Today From Trust Across America / Trust Around the World

January 30, 2018
by Hank Boerner – Chair& Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

Trust!  For many of us, when a critical incident or crisis occurs, one of the first words that come to mind is “trust,” as in “they really broke the trust with us” or “the organization can’t be trusted” (as in the statements made) or “the leaders can’t be trusted.”

Apply this to now-familiar settings:  Wells Fargo bankers and the security of your personal bank accounts.  BP and deepwater ocean drilling or Alaska drilling.  Equifax and your personal financial information.  Valeant pharma and drug pricing – and alleged gouging.

In a world of those little swirling computer screen circles, and IT dominating our business & persona lives…threats can now be everywhere — internet hacking and phishing abounds – and we think:  who can we trust with your information?  That becomes a conscious and subconscious thought process on both a business and personal basis for many of us.

In business and professional life, trust is a valuable and precious commodity.  Warren Buffett has observed, “…it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it…if you think about that, you will do things differently…”

“Trustworthy” is a very valuable characteristic, we would say!

And so does an organization that has been identifying the “Top Thought Leaders in Trust” think that way:  the Trust Across America / Trust Around the World (TAA/TAW, owned by Next Decade, Inc.)

The founder and guiding spirit is CEO Barbara Brooks Kimmel, who 10 years ago created the program and its proprietary FACTS® Framework (used to measure the trustworthiness of more than 1,500 U.S. public companies). FACTS incorporates five indicators of trust and integrity – Financial stability, Accounting conservativeness, Corporate governance, Transparency and Sustainability.

Barbara is also the editor of the Trust INC. book series and runs the global Trust Alliance.

Every year since 2008, TAA/TAW assembles judges and conducts a survey and analysis to select a small universe of the Top Thought Leaders in Trust.  After five continuous years on the annual list, a small number of awardees receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.  This year’s lifetime roster additions include:

  • John Baldoni – President, the Baldoni Consulting organization.
  • Donna Boehme – Principal of Compliance Strategists LLC.
  • Doug Conant – former CEO of Campbell Soup and founder, Conant Leadership.
  • Robert Easton – Chairman and Senior Manager of Accenture Australia and New Zealand.
  • Mark S. Fernandes – CEO of Capitalism 2.0, Inc.
  • Barbara Brooks Kimmel – CEO of Trust Across America.
  • Holly Latty-Mann – Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Cofounder, and President of The Leadership Trust.
  • David Reiling – CEO of Sunrise Banks and social entrepreneur.

TAA / TAW is the leading global program devoted to researching and building tools to elevate organizational trust. A Google search will return over 1300 entries.

In 2015, the organization added the “Lifetime Honorees” designation to 12 professionals.  I was honored to be one of the original twelve, after five years of being the awardee for the annual award.  In 2016 and in 2017, seven more professionals were added to the roster (each year), and now in 2018, there are eight professionals added.

Ninety-one individuals were named to the 2017 individual award, including for the second year in a row, G&A Institute Co-founder and Executive Vice President Louis D. Coppola.

You can see the full list in the latest TRUST! Magazine here:  http://trustacrossamerica.com/magazine.shtml

 

Of course, Lou and I are humbled and proud to receive such honors.

TAA / TAW points to the organization’s core values and principles, which are excellent “north stars” for professionals’ and their organizations’ guidance:

Integrity – Quality – Community – Objectivity – Credibility – Success. 

You can learn more about these and the organization at: http://www.trustacrossamerica.com/about-words.shtml

Do you have a nominee for the Top Thought Leaders 2019 award?  The nominations are now open – there’s information at: http://www.trustacrossamerica.com/cgi-bin/nominations.cgi

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Adding my thoughts….

Trust – this apparently comes down to us for common understanding and use from ancient languages.  There are derivations from the Old Norse – the language of the wandering Vikings (“traust” and “trow”).  From the Old Dutch (“troosten”).  And the German or Teutonic tongue (“trosten”).  And more from the Gothic English-the Anglo Saxon roots of spoken English today (“trausti”).

These ancient and current tongues convey to us:  

Truth.  Comfort. Trustworthy.
An agreement or covenant – to be true to one’s words and deeds.
To be believed.

And therefore – to be trusted and trustworthy.  Worth striving for, we would say in these often chaotic days of the 21st Century!

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There’s information on the 2017 awards in the news from TAA:  https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/announcing-2018-top-thought-leaders-in-trust-300589490.html

Accountability Demonstrated by This Bank Board? Wells Fargo Directors Clawback $75 Million from 2 Former Execs

April 10, 2017

by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute

We often hear about bank industry un-accountability; is this the beginning of a turn toward greater accountability?  Time and actions taken will tell us…over time.

The Board of Directors of Wells Fargo has clawed back $75 million in compensation from two former executives — the CEO and the head of retail banking.  That’s a drop in the bucket to some governance experts and consumer protection advocates, but it’s a good sign that corporate accountability is being demonstrated by at least one bank board.

Former Chair/CEO John Stumpf gave up $41 million in comp when he resigned last October; he now is ordered to pay back an additional $28 million.

Former head of retailing Carrie Tolstedt gave up $19 million in comp, and now will lose $47 million in stock options.

This after a 6-month investigation ordered by a handful of independent board members and conducted by the Shearman & Sterling law firm. The bank has paid $185 million to date in regulatory fines.

Some 2 million (!) fraudulent accounts were opened in customer names to inflate sales claims (the retail banking operations were overseen by Tolstedt).  More than 5,000 employees have been fired, accused of participation in the scheme, which went on for more than a decade.

Wells Fargo is one of the “Big Four” commercial banks of the USA.  The familiar red stage coach hustling across the western prairies is the symbol of the venerable institution, founded in May 1852. But today’s bank is the result of the merger of the old Wells Fargo & Company with Norwest Bank back in 1998.

Strumpf joined Northwestern National Bank (banking arm of Norwest Corporation) in 1982 and had risen in Norwest operations / then the combined company over the years, becoming CEO in June 2007 and adding the board chair title in January 2010.

So — he was not a “newbie” perhaps not always familiar with the culture of the merged bank operations. His action seriously tarnished the reputation and brand value of the “stagecoach bank” founded so long ago by Messrs Wells and Fargo.

With this action, the Wells Fargo board of directors takes an important step in addressing the cultural woes of the merged bank.

As The Washington Post writer observed, this is an attempt to demonstrate that banks can hold themselves accountable (and so avoid regulatory action for mis-behaviors).

The new CEO?  That’s Timothy Sloan, who was the former COO and therefore the supervisor of retail bank head Tolsteadt!  The board members have all been re-nominated for re-election this year.  Let’s see how “accountable” shareholders think the board has been when they vote their proxies.

Culture — it’s all about culture!  Culture — good or bad – is the ultimate determinant of outcomes!

 

We’re a Long Way from NYC’s Stonewall Inn, But Still a Ways to Go for Corporate LGBT Policies, Says Investor Coalition

by Hank Boerner – Chairman, G&A Institute

We’ve come a long way since the gay & lesbian communities mobilized and began in earnest their civil rights campaigns of the 1970s and 1980s and into the1990s. It was the New York City Police Department’s wrongheaded “raid” on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village neighborhood in June 1969 that provided the important spark for the long-term, winning campaign by LGBT community for equal rights and equal protection under the laws of the land. “Stonewall” became a rallying cry for the next installment of the continuing “journey” of the civil rights movement in the United States.

The 1960s/1970s were the era of civil rights protests — we were involved in or witnessed and were affected by the civil rights / voting rights movement; the counter-culture “revolution” (remember the hippies?); the drive for adoption of the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution); and the anti-war movement protests against the conflict in Vietnam.  These were catalysts as well for the LGBT equal rights warriors of the decades that followed the 1969 Stonewall protests.

Finally, in recent years, after years of campaigning by LGBT advocates, most states have been adopting protective measures to protect the LGBT community.  Same gender marriage is a reality in many U.S. jurisdictions.

On November 7, 2014 The New York Times carried an update — it was a “milestone year” for LGBT rights advocates, the publication explained.  Voters in the 3Ms — Maine, Maryland and Minnesota – favored same-sex marriage; the first openly-gay US Senator (Tammy Baldwin) was elected by Wisconsin voters.

Still, there was vocal and often fierce opposition to same-sex marriage and equal protection under the law for LGBT citizens.

About LGBT Policies and the US Corporate Community

Many large companies (estimate:70 companies in the S&P 500 Index to date) have adopted non-discrimination policies to protect LGBT employees in the United States, says the 2014 Corporate Equality Index (a national benchmarking tool of the Human Rights Campaign).

We see these policies and programs for inclusion described in the many sustainability and responsibility reports we examine as exclusive data partner for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) for the United States of America.

Still, legal protections for LGBT citizens are not sufficient in numerous US jurisdictions. “Homophobic” policies and attitudes still reign in too many US cities and states and local communities.

And policies, attitudes, practices in other countries?  Well, that’s really a problem, say sustainable & responsible investment advocates — and steps are being taken to address the situation.

The S&R investment advocacy campaign is focused on the LGBT employees of US firms working overseas.  In countries like Russia, one of the world’s largest industrial economies, which has harsh anti-LGBT policies. The US investor group points out that 79 countries consider same sex relationships illegal; 66 countries provide “some” protection at least in the workplace; and in some countries, homosexuality is punishable by death.

In a business environment that continues to globalize in every aspect, with American large-cap companies operating everywhere, the investor coalition is calling on US companies to extend their LGBT policies on anti-discrimination and equal benefits policies to employees outside the United States. A letter was sent by the coalition to about 70 large-cap companies (the signatories manage US$210 billion in assets.

Shelley Alpern, Director Social Research & Shareholder Advocacy at Clean Yield Asset Management explains: “Today, most leading U.S. corporations now have equitable policies on their books for their [American-based] LGBT employees. Ther’s a dearth of information on how many extend policies outside of the U.S. In starting this dialogue, we hope to identify best practices and start to encourage all companies to adopt them.”

The objective of the shareowner advocacy campaign is to stimulate interest in the issue and create a broad dialogue that leads to greater protection of LGBT employees of US companies operating outside of the United States.

Mari Schwartzer, coordinator of shareholder advocacy at NorthStar Asset Management compliments US firms with effective non-discrimination policies and states:  “While we are pleased that so many companies have adopted non-discrimination policies in the USA which incorporate equal protections for LGBT employees, the next phase of implementation is upon us — we must ensure that international employees are receiving equal benefits and are adequately protected.  Particularly those stationed in regions hostile to LGBT individuals…”

Signatories of the letters sent to companies include these sustainable & responsible investing advocates:  Calvert Investments; Jantz Management; Miller/Howard Investments; Office of the Comptroller of New York City; Pax World Management; Sustainability Group/Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge; Trillium Asset Management; Unitarian Universalist Association; Walden Asset Management; Zevin Asset management.

Companies contacted include:  Aetna, AIG, Allstate, Altria, Amazon, American Express, Apple, AT&T, Bank of America, Baxter, Best Buy, Boeing, Cardinal health, Caterpillar, Chevron, Cisco, Citigroup, Coca Cola, Colgate Palmolive, Costco, CVS Health, Delta, Dow Chemical, DuPoint, EMC, FedEx, Ford Motor, General Electric, General Dynamics, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, HP, Home Depot, Honeywell, Human, IBM Ingram Micro, Intel, J&J, JPMorgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, McDonalds, McKesson, Merck, MetLife, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Oracle, PepsiCo, Pfizer, P&G, Prudential, Sears, Sprint, Starbucks, Target, Texas Instruments, United Continental, United HealthGroup, United Technologies, UPS, Verizon, Visa, Walgreen, Walt Disney, Walmart, Wellpoint, Wells Fargo.

Summing up the heart of the issue for investors (and corporate employees):  “Corporations must take the extra step to ensure consistent application of LGBT-inclusive workplace policies throughout their operations, regardless of location,” said Wendy Holding, Partner, the Sustainability Group of Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge.